We are used to traveling to the most beautiful places with the aim of getting outstanding photographs. But when we import our images to Lightroom, we have often to accept that our photos are no more than the same old story that was photographed there already by thousands of others before. How can we get photographs that stand out?
In my latest video on YouTube, I took my audience to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Slovenia, which is called “Slap Virje.” The birds were tweeting, while the water was gently running down the mountain face into an emerald pool. It is one of those spots where you start to dream when you just look toward the waterfall, which is a well-known subject for landscape photography in Slovenia and an iconic place for lots of tourists.
Finding Your Own Story
When I enter a location, I always think about the elements defining the place for me. In this case, I was blown away by the interaction between the pattern of the floating water and all the greens through the moss-covered rocks and the emerald water in the pool. This is a quite personal decision; other photographers might get attracted by totally different elements. These elements are the characters for my individual story, and this is the foundation for framing my individual composition. I just have to choose the right perspective and the right focal length to get my image saying what I want it to say. Whenever I struggle with finding a composition, I think even harder about the characters.
This can help to find a quite strong composition, but especially in iconic places, it could happen that we get attracted to the same features that the majority of photographers were already attracted to. We try hard to find our own story without drifting to the same type of compositions everyone knows already on Instagram. And we don’t want to get average shots, right? No, we want to go home with a masterpiece.
Ignoring Other Photographs
Particularly at iconic places, we want to photograph there because we got attracted by an outstanding photograph, which was taken by another photographer at that same place. We also want to get a photograph like that, but we don’t want to copy it. And so, we could fall into the trap of trying to frame up a composition that is totally different from what we have seen from the other photographer. We didn’t put our emphasis on the place and its elements, but more on the photograph of another photographer.
So, I engage with photographs of other photographers, but I go to a place totally without expectations. I don’t even have a rough composition in my mind. I just go there, inhale all the mood, and when I find the characters that define the place, I take the shot.
Don’t Restrict Yourself to the Obvious Only
When you plan to go to a waterfall, you are going to photograph a waterfall, obviously. You will find your personal characteristics for framing up your individual composition and this could lead to a quite strong photograph. But there is a simple trick: I don’t restrict myself to the obvious things.
This means that whenever I go to an amazing waterfall, I don’t only engage with the waterfall itself. In the above-mentioned video, you see me also photographing an inconspicuous tree beside the waterfall. I didn’t even include the waterfall itself. I got the best photograph not at that well-known iconic waterfall, but behind the parking lot. Ultimately, I got one of the best photographs of this year so far.
So, whenever I plan to go to a photo spot, it doesn’t matter if it is an iconic place or not. I don’t allow myself to get influenced by other photographs. I just engage with the place, I pay attention, and finally, I build up a composition with those elements that tells the story I want my image to tell.
Watch the video above for the whole adventure and lots of tips about waterfall photography.